News Section: Opinion
Letter to the Editor: FPL's Investment in Nuclear Good for Floridians
Letter to the Editor,
Dennis Maley’s recent column concerning nuclear power in Florida (Nuclear Power Deal is a Big Step in the Wrong Direction) is grossly misleading and factually incorrect in its characterization of the value that our state’s nuclear power plants continue to deliver to Florida electricity customers. Because of Florida Power and Light’s investments in nuclear power, now and decades ago, FPL customers enjoy the lowest electric bills in all of Florida and one of the cleanest emissions profiles of any utility in the country today.
While it's easy to flippantly say that FPL customers are “pre-funding” future costs of upgrading nuclear facilities, in reality this is not anywhere close to being true. Just look at the facts:
Over the course of the past year, FPL has been upgrading our nuclear plants to add over 500 new megawatts of clean, cost-effective power-generation to our fleet. To put this in perspective, this is about the same amount of electricity generated by a medium-sized nuclear power plant without having to build one.
These are real projects with real benefits that are already paying off TODAY for FPL customers in millions of fuel cost savings. For example, the 400 new megawatts we have already added will save our customers roughly $7.5 million a month on fuel costs going forward; and, over the lifetime of the units, these upgrades are expected to save customers approximately $3.8 billion.
Separately, only about 10 percent of the nuclear funds go toward the licensing process for two new nuclear units at the existing Turkey Point site. But, contrary to Mr. Maley’s assertions, it is important for customers to understand that they are absolutely not "pre-paying" for any construction activities.
Under the law, FPL is only reimbursed for amounts that we have already spent IF these expenses are deemed prudent through an independent evaluation by the Florida Public Service Commission. In practice, this means that during the licensing phase, customers pay only for licensing activities; during construction, FPL must borrow the money and customers pay only for financing charges, not the construction itself; and, it is only after the plant is in operation, that customers would pay for the charges incurred during construction.
Beyond being factually incorrect regarding how nuclear projects in Florida are funded, Mr. Maley uses an all too common scare tactic, recklessly asserting that Florida’s nuclear plants are “susceptible to catastrophes” like the Fukushima event and hurricanes.
Again, the facts tell a very different story.
Even though seismic events like the one that impacted Japan are impossible in Florida, FPL’s nuclear plants are specifically built to standards that exceed “worst-case” scenarios. In Florida, this typically means major hurricanes. The state’s nuclear plants have been designed to successfully withstand a direct hit from a Category 5 hurricane. This is not just theory, but was proven when hurricane Andrew went directly over the Turkey Point plant in 1992 and again during hurricanes Frances and Jeanne which impacted our St. Lucie plant in 2004. During each of these events there was no damage to any of the plant’s nuclear components due to the strong design of the plants.
So, while it is easy to use innuendo and sensational events to make a philosophical point, the reality is that continued investment in nuclear power is good for FPL customers, for the environment and for our state. To this end, FPL isn’t talking about protecting consumers from higher energy costs and preserving our environment for future generations, we are continuing to take action to do so today and for generations to come.
Director, Nuclear Communication
Florida Power and Light Company